The NFL’s Not-So-Subtle Plan for the Jacksonville Jaguars

Image from the outstanding image set from Dave’s Art Locker. Ooh you’re a legend, Dave!

Very sneaky, Roger Goodell — very sneaky indeed. I know you think you’re the most clever student at Clevertown State University, home of the Fightin’ Clevers (motto: Sapientia per dolum), but I see through your ruse and I’ve picked up on your deceptive, Scooby Doo scheme.

You’ve been planning on shipping out the super lame, highly embarrassing Jaguars to London for years now, bro. Don’t act like we haven’t seen this coming.

The signs always look obvious in retrospect, even if they’re hard to detect at the time. Our first clue came to us all the way back in 1995. What happened then? The Jacksonville Jaguars became a team. This came in the face of massive controversy about the market and its willingness to support a team, mind you. One read through the Wikipedia section on the pre-franchise days is all you need to know about how much of afterthought Jacksonville was for an NFL team. That was really the beginning of the end for that franchise.

(That said, the first QBs in Jacksonville history were Steve Beuerlein and Mark Brunell, so…obviously fate wasn’t super fond of the Jags either.)

So what happened next? Well, like a lot of expansion teams (especially those in Florida, because what the fuck Florida?) they made the playoffs in their second season. Seriously, what is with Florida expansion teams? The Marlins won two (!!) World Series titles with a borderline sociopath for an owner, and the Panthers NHL (!!!) team went to the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural year. Great! Woo Florida! With that kind of success, one can only imagine what’s happened to the Jags and their popularity since then!

Oh…oh shit.

In case you don’t like clicking links, that was a link to their attendance record according to ESPN. Spoilers: Think of a number between 20 and 32. Got it? OK, now tell me the number. Trick question! Whatever you picked is right, since that’s where Jacksonville has ranked in attendance since 2007.

(Yes, that’s the last reliable year of attendance data they have. Yes, that’s total attendance instead of percentage. But come on — let’s not act like that’ll make a material difference: the fans have spoken about the Jags, and what they’re saying is “Jesus, and we thought Fred Durst was an embarrassment to our city.”)

So hey, what happens when you’re losing money and losing games and you’re generally the laughing stock of the league? Three things:

  1. You clean house w/r/t the personnel
  2. You clean house w/r/t the front office/ownership
  3. You re-brand your team’s uniform/logo(s)

Pretty simple stuff, and I get it. Really, I do. I’m all for sticking with a regime and plan for multiple years — the NFL is easily the most reactionary, knee-jerk league there is, and it’s insane how many teams give up on the plan within a few years (or, you know, four months if you’re the awful, awful Browns). With how much roster turnover they’ve had there, especially at key positions (namely all of them), the Jags are effectively an NFL temp agency — they’ve certainly tried #1 above. The listless franchise needed something to infuse new life into it from the top down. If nothing else, it’s a franchise that’s very amenable to change and malleable within the context of the league, so they had a great opportunity to start fresh.

Enter Shahid Khan!

AKA Pakistani Mario

Shahid Khan seems like a fine businessman. According to 60 Minutes vis a vis Wikipedia, “he spent his first night in a $2/night room at the University Y-YMCA and his first job was washing dishes for $1.20 an hour.” That’s a pretty impressive rags-to-riches story. I don’t really give a shit, though, because Khan also happens to own Fulham FC. Oh, what’s Fulham FC, you ask? That’s a Barclays Premier League soccer team.

Barclays Premier League. As in England. As in one of the most prominent soccer leagues in the world.

As in the same country his Jaguars have been and will be visiting as part of the NFL’s International Series.

That’s cool though, right? Probably nothing to worry about. I mean, it’s not like he previously tried to buy 60% of some other moribund franchise in the NFL, right? Like, I dunno, let’s say, hmm…let’s just go with something crazy like, I guess the St. Louis Rams?

Oh come on, for real?

Alright, fine, it looks a little dubious that the NFL has been cozying up to London for a while now and the whispers of putting/moving a team there seem to get louder each and every year. And yes, maybe it’s a little bit odd that the owner of an NFL team has such close ties to a prominent England-based team, potentially setting up a conflict-of-interest scenario in terms of leveraging the one to help build the brand of the other (in this case the Jags, as with almost everything else in their existence, are the “other”). But surely the Rams are now owned by a strong, America-and-NFL-centric owner with no ties to England or the Premier League. R…right?

SON OF A BITCH!

So: Shahid Khan, the beautifully-mustachioed billionaire, wanted in to the NFL. His first effort was to buy the Rams — one of the only teams with worse attendance than Jacksonville last year — but his offer was matched by minority owner Stan Kroenke, owner of Arsenal. Khan then cut his losses and settled on the Jags one year later, verbally agreeing to keep the team in town…and two years after that, Khan bought Fulham FC. That was 2013 — the same year Jacksonville played their first game in London. And which team backed out of that appearance so Jacksonville could fill in?

The St. Louis Rams.

More like NFL-luminati if you ask me

The Rams played a game in London in 2012, a year where they ranked 30th in attendance; the Jags played last year (28th in attendance) and have three more games scheduled in the future. Is the NFL simply trying to take one of its lowest-drawing teams and showcase it abroad because they can spare the relatively low gate results? Maybe. Or: are they secretly planning to slowly get Jacksonville used to the idea of not having a team anymore? Is their goal to slowly morph Jacksonville into something unrecognizable even to Floridians in order to make the transition even more smooth??

Quick! Pop quiz: What colors does Jacksonville wear?? The answer appears below.

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What colors did you say? (Couldn’t bring myself to look at these eyesores anyway, so linking it here works pretty well in this context.) That’s right: black, white, teal and gold. TEAL AND GOLD. And look at the awful design, for that matter. The alternate-colored shoulder stripe things? The “JAGS” logo patch on the left breast? THE GOLD-TO-BLACK GRADIENT PATTERN ON THE HELMET?? It takes a truly evil genius to design something that’s simultaneously bland and hideous — this couldn’t have been an accident. The Jags play awful football, inexplicably look even worse doing it, and they’re taking longer and longer vacations away from home — Shahid Khan knows what he’s doing, and the NFL has been with him every step of the way.

Look, I don’t know when the Jaguars are going to move to London, and I’m not sure what they’ll re-brand themselves as either (London Knights? London Churchills? London Ex-Patriots?). But the signs are there, people, and they’ve been there for a while. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen them — and if not, you will sooner than you think.

-jsg

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The NFL’s Not-So-Subtle Plan for the Jacksonville Jaguars

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